Even after a disappointing season, Maryland fans had reason to believe that their team was set up for a good run over the next few years. They viewed the upcoming seasons as somewhat of Gary Williams' "last stand," given several factors: the return of sophomore center Jordan Williams, the emergence of young point guards PeShon Howard and Terrell Stoglin, the incoming recruiting class of Nick Faust, Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig and a future commitment made by junior forward Justin Anderson out of Montrose Christian. All could have lead to Gary's last chance at a deep NCAA tournament run.
But after the events of the last two days, now what?
First, Jordan Williams, Maryland's best player, hired an agent and decided to take his talents to the NBA. Most fans and observers believe that, as good as Williams is, he isn't NBA ready at this point in his career. He likely won't be able to over power the competition at the next level the way he did in college. Add that to the fact that he still hasn't developed a real face-up game yet, and you could see why Gary hoped Jordan would stay for his junior season to mature his game.
Now that Jordan is now gone, however, the Terps are looking pretty thin in the front court. And it's a real shame too, because with another year to develop, he could have dominated the ACC and helped the team win more games, all while improving his NBA draft stock (in a more stable labor situation).
But now Maryland will be without his services. Usually, in situations like this, fans would lean on the fact that this is a Gary Williams team and that no matter who is on the roster, they will fight tooth and nail the entire year to -- at the very least -- keep themselves in the NCAA tournament discussion.
Well, so much for that assurance. With Gary's retirement, the given that the team's whole would be greater than the sum of it's parts is no longer there. Sure, a new coach could come in and instill and impart a new sense of enthusiasm upon his new players, but no one may be able to get more out of less like Gary Williams did.
And whomever the new coach is, he will have to deal with a group of players whose talent base could be completely gutted. Jordan Williams already left, and now you're starting to hear rumblings that Ashton Gibbs and Nick Faust could reconsider their commitments to the program. Needless to say, if either decide to leave, Maryland's new coach probably won't be starting his tenure off with a bang in his first season.
But regardless of the potential roster changes, it's the identity of Maryland basketball that will never again be the same. For Maryland alums (myself included), Gary Williams is an institution. The idea of someone other than him walking out of the tunnel at Comcast Center (fistpumps and all) is such a foreign concept to many that it'll take everyone associated with the program some time to get used to it.
There's an uneasyness about the future of this basketball program, as there should be. They just lost their best player and the coach that defined a generation of Maryland fans. For the foreseeable future, there will be far more questions than answers.
How are they supposed to recover? Will they hire the right coach? Will they change their recruiting style? And lastly, will the program ever return to prominence?
Right now, no one has those answers, and with so much left to be decided, it looks like it may take quite some time before we find out.